Cassettes are still a popular medium for listening to music, but what makes them so unique? We talked to Coaster Records, a record label who releases cassettes from indie bands and to producer Willem van Rij who uses tapes to give his digital music an analogue sound.
Five years ago Jasper and his former band members wanted to publish their own EP. Jasper: “We released on tape because Burger Records just started launching albums on tapes and made them cool again. I bought audio bible tapes from England and taped our own EP on them. The funny thing was that the audio bibles were 90 minutes long, so when our EP ended you could still listen to someone reading the bible for 50 minutes.”
Three months after Jasper started Coaster Records, Jente came into his live and started to help him with making the covers and promoting new releases. From that moment on Jente and Jasper manage Coaster Records together.
Jente: “When we just started releasing tapes from indie bands and sell them at concerts, people were really surprised and did not get it at all. We tried to explain why they’re so cool - because you can do it yourself and design them the way you like - and nowadays selling tapes is really common.”
Small and accessible
Jente and Jasper love tapes because they are small and accessible. To produce the tapes, they use a cassette duplicator. So if they release a small batch of cassettes, you know they are handmade. Jente: “What I also really like, is the fact that you can design your own artwork and you can choose the tape colour you like.”
Not only indie bands use tapes, the Vaporwave scene also fell in love with tapes. Jasper: Vaporwave uses Japanese samples from the eighties and puts a beat underneath it. In this scene a release can be very limited and sold for an amount up to €400. Jente: “And people just buy them, that’s how dedicated they are, really cool.”
And of course they have their own tape collection. Jasper: “These Japanese tapes from the label Miles Apart are very special to me. After I released a tape on this label, the founder sent me all of his releases. We eventually met last year when Jente and I went to Japan and he recognized me when I visited his record shop.”
You can publish tapes, but you can also create cool soundscapes. Producer Willem van Rij shows us how he makes his edgy sound. He produces and creates his own songs under the name of De Kraken. Willem uses a four track recorder to transform his digital beats, but what is a four track recorder? Willem: “It was the first recorder for bands to record their songs directly on tape. You have four tracks that connect to drums, bass, guitar and vocals. The band starts with recording the drums, rewind the tape and recorded the guitar. You can record every layer on top of each other and when you were finished you had a complete song. This was really an eye opener for bands who just started. Because you could record at home and did not need an expensive studio anymore.”
Willem started his music career as a DJ and played with vinyl. Willem: “I mostly played hardcore records, but after a few years I was looking for something new. I could not find what I was looking for on vinyl, so I started to produce my own songs. I had a computer and made guitar loops but it all sounded very digital. I wanted to give it an analog sound.”
“Then I saw Frits Wentink, a talented producer from Amsterdam, working with a tape recorder on Instagram. This was exactly what I was looking for. The first thing I tried were vocals, it was the easiest to plug in a microphone and see what happened. The challenge for me was to connect the tape recorder to my notebook, but when it worked I was finally able to make that warm and edgy sound I love. The process of making music is also very important to me and working with the cassette player makes it much more interesting.”
Willem released as ‘De Kraken, Me And The King’ (with his good friend Ivo) three new songs in April and his new album is being released really soon. Willem: “This album originates from a dark place in my life. Two good friends of mine drowned when I was 19 and I developed PTSS. I went into therapy and after each session I felt so bad and started to write and made soundscapes with the cassette deck. These songs were so different from what I have made in the past, but it really felt right for me. When I finished 20 songs, it was time to do something with them and the album ‘Two Crosses’ was a fact. I am very happy with the result and I’m looking forward to making more music.”